Thursday, July 29, 2010

Demonical - Servants of the Unlight (2007)

When Centinex called it quits, we lost one of the very best of the loyalist Swedish death metal movement, a band who produced a long line of good to great records honoring their roots and in a few cases even expanding upon them. We've suffered a metric ton of carbon copy bands in the past few years, all paying their respects to the godfathers Nihilist/Entombed, Dismember, Grave and Unleashed, but very few have done a knockout, drag down to the grave job of it that Centinex had done for years. All was not lost, however, since three members of Centinex decided that wild hell steeds could not drag them away from their beloved style, and in 2006 they put together the entity Demonical with vocalist Ludde Engellau (of death/grinders Remasculate).

Servants of the Unlight was the result of their first forays back to the sepulcher, and what a great fucking album this turned out to be! A dark, unflinching sprawl of all the elements that made Left Hand Path so great in the first place, delivered with brute grinding force and an incredibly strong set of songs, which could easily sate any Swedish purist whether their fancy lies in the cryptic death metal itself or the more grind-endowed bands to take a bite out of the style (i.e. Nasum and Rotten Sound). You are all familiar with the epic guitar tones that helped place Entombed onto the radars of nearly every sick fuck in society, the bludgeoning hostility of the vocals and the inherent, punkish fervor underlying the outbreaks of D-beat malignity. Demonical captures all of these qualities on their debut and then pushes them over the threshold to the abyss below.

"Suicide Throne" arrives in a cadence of storm, bleak peril and titanic percussion as the chords of walls crash upon the shore of enticing, melodic filth; and then Demonical REALLY let loose with a steady, grinding rhythm of ominous depth and darkness. If can't throw behind that breakdown around 3:10, well I don't think there could be any cure for you. "Revel in Misanthropia" blasts open and then cedes into a series of blazing chords, each hammering down a charnel house, pillars and thrones of bones and skeletal remains shattered and creating an avalanche of dead-waking frenzy. Proof that a good, forceful riff does not require complexity, it completely conquers the listener under Engellau's brute formations of the prose, and when it finally segways into the moshing monolith that you know is coming, it's surprisingly understated and no less effective. The intro riff to "Burned Alive" sounds like something straight off of Death's Leprosy, if played by Entombed, and once again a slight dynamic difference helps the pace of this record enormously, though it soon crushes with the weight of a hundred siege machines, blasting everyone in its path.

The album's loving embrace never lets you go, as it clutches you so tight your blood hemorrhages and your organs burst out through your ribs. "Feeding the Armageddon" does exactly that, lifting your pleading, flailing body off the ground like some unfeeling Hulk and casting you straight into destruction. "United in Torture" takes a tank-like approach, with a Bolt Thrower vibe in the scorching, diabolic melodies; "Slaughter of All Hope" is a sheer, endgame riffing scenario with minor variations twisted about the steady drumming core, and then a huge chorus with enormous vocals. "Unholy Desecration" takes the speed down to another mid-paced piece alternating D-beats and Bolt Thrower segments, and "Leipzig 1945" takes it down another notch to a doomed leviathan of WWII agony. The limited edition CD also comes with a cover of Onslaught's "Death Metal" which is performed extraordinary well, fitting hand in glove with the originals.

Speaking of 'original', that's about the one complaint you could ever launch at this album. It's a mix of Centinex and all that band's inherent influences, from the grinding hardcore of Discharge to the graveyard ethics of early Entombed. Of course, I'm not complaining, and Servants of the Unlight is one of the very best records I've heard to follow in this path. It's not complex, it's not graceful, and it's not for the weak of stomach. The tones are gigantic, the intent only to crush and kill, and the post-mortem emotions of having just been audibly incinerated (which accompany all good extreme metal) fully in position.

Verdict: Epic Win [9.5/10]
(shedding off all ties to life)

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